PR for Politics

The development of a presidential campaign is a relentless job it can make or break a candidate’s reputation. It is a moment when consultant, technician, and media strategists strive to build the candidate’s credibility, confidence, charism, goodwill and knowledge to fulfil the emotional appeal of the audience.

This article taken from IABD Business Research Yearbook 2002, on the Political Public Relations Battle ground: Tactics and Images in the 2000 US Presidential Campaign, written by A. Kanso and H.P. LeBlanc III – whom the Editor met in the IABD international conference in Los Angeles. 

  • Gore and Bush’s campaign developers used a myriad of public relations vehicles to heighten the public awareness and strengthen the capabilities of their candidates.

These are their vehicles: 

Press Release
Each candidate used press releases to notify the media of new campaign developments and to respond to statements and actions of his opponent. It was reported that Bush’s campaign planner delivered some 200 releases. 

Gore and BUsh relied on speeches as an essential part of their public relations campaign. Speeches serve as way to communicate the candidate’s message and clarify his previous statements and behaviors.

Three televised debates occurred over the course of several weeks in September – October 2000. Each debate was structured around a different format to afford both candidates the opportunity to showcase their strongest delivery whether by traditional podium-style or that of a town meeting. These debates were helpful to public relations strategist because they were critical to image development and management.

The candidate’s appearances on these shows were important as the public had a chance to see how they would react in an uncontrolled environment when confronted with aggressive journalists.

Personal Appearances
Gore and Bush made use of late night talk shows. They regularly appeared on prominent shows like Oprah and The Rosie O’Donnel shows to reach daytime viewing audiences as well. 

New Features of Candidate’s Spouses 
The spouses of both candidates reached out to the public through broad case and print interviews that focused on their backgrounds and viewpoints of their partners. 

Both Gore and Bush attempted to solidity the public opinion of their candidacy by seeking endorsements from opinion leaders and influential organizations.

An increasingly important public relations tool during the 2000 Presidential Campaign was the internet. Each candidate not only had his own website, but also established numerous unofficial websites. 

Advertising was perhaps the most controversial tool in the campaign.

National conventions
Bush and Gore tried to appear politically ‘moderate’ rather than extreme to satisfy the general public and the majority of members of their parties. Each candidate utilized the coverage of all major television networks to hook a large following supporters.

Public relations mistakes!

  • Bush received much criticism when he made a disapproving comment about New York Time reporter that was accidentally recorded and heard by the crowd. 
  • The gaffe once again meant that the Bush campaign found itself ‘off message’ defending the remark instead of talking about issues crucial to the campaign’s success (
  • Gore found himself defending or clarifying his statement that were labelled as exaggerations during the debates. These may have resulted from attempts to give short answers on complex issues. 

What do we learn from this campaign?

  1. Mistakes necessitated the use of various public relations tools tp reshape the credibility of both candidates.
  2. The Bush team utilized the camera more effectively. They realized that images spoke a thousand words.
  3. Gore and his advisors may be regretting that they didn’t initially highlight Bush’s inexperience and attack that point, Bush is enjoying his new position in the oval office. 
  4. The most important battleground is the one that relates the candidate to the public. 

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